ONE-IN-FIVE people believe much of what is called “domestic violence” is a normal reaction to day-to-day stress and frustration, a new report has found.
Support agencies say the results of the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey demonstrate a need for sustained investment in violence prevention.
They say attitudes can prevent women from coming forward with their experiences.
The study, conducted by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, exposes a disconnect between the facts about violence against women, and the attitudes of “a substantial minority” of Australians.
Forty-two per cent of Australians believe sexual assault accusations are commonly levelled at men to “get back” at them – even though the evidence shows false accusations are rare, and nine out of 10 women who have been sexually assaulted do not report to the police.
About 40 per cent of Australians believe many women “exaggerate” how unequally women are treated in Australia.
The survey found 98 per cent of respondents would be bothered if they were confronted by a male friend verbally abusing his female partner, and 70 per cent believed they would call it out.
The majority of Australians have what ANROWS considers a ‘good’ understanding of violence against women, the findings show. Most people are also supportive of gender equality, condemn violence against women, and believe they would it call out.
People’s recognition of violence against women improved in the four years between the 2017 survey and its predecessor. But ANROWS said there was still more work to do to raise awareness of violence in all its forms.
“There is still more work to do to emphasise that it can be more than just physical violence,” the organisation said.
The study found awareness of the gendered nature of violence had declined, with fewer people recognising men were more likely to be the perpetrators and women were more likely to be on the receiving end.
“Although most Australians are aware that non-consensual sex in marriage is illegal, 12 per cent mistakenly believe that it is not illegal, and a further seven per cent did not know,” ANROWS said.
One-in-three Australians were unaware women were more likely to be sexually assaulted by somebody they knew then by a stranger.
“This lack of awareness can lead to undue emphasis on preventing sexual assaults by strangers, rather than the more common problem of assault by someone known to the victim,” ANROWS observed.